COVID-19 News

Agrico East Africa goes digital – and Kenyan potato farmers love it…

The Agrico East Africa team was working hard the past few months to produce video tutorials on ‘Profitable Potato Farming in Kenya’. They did this in a well-rewarded effort to continue their work of rendering agronomic support to smallholder farmers in Kenya, despite the debilitating COVID-19 restrictions that was imposed on Kenyan citizens during the pandemic. Agrico East Africa (EA), operating as Potato Services Africa Limited, has been working in Kenya since 2015 as a merchant of – Kenyan produced – certified potato seed. Agrico East Africa (EA), operating as Potato Services Africa Limited, has been working in Kenya since 2015 as a merchant of – Kenyan produced – certified potato seed.

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McCain steps in to support UK potato industry, put three-to-five-year loyalty scheme in place for growers

The UK’s £1bn potato growing sector has been hit so hard by extreme weather and coronavirus that its largest customer is stepping in with £25m of support to secure its supply chain. The hardest hit growers have been those who sell in the spot market rather than under contract, such as those selling for “fresh chipping” on the premises of food outlets. McCain, which buys about 15 per cent of the UK’s annual potato crop, normally has one-year contracts with growers. But as part of the £25m investment it will put in place a three-to-five-year loyalty scheme so farmers can be assured of their market.

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Video: Idaho potato growers reflect on the impact of COVID

Idaho’s potato season was promising at the beginning of the year. The Idaho Farm Bureau shows how the coronavirus pandemic changed everything. In a video interview with RFDTV, Randy Hardy with Hardy Farms says: “It was fantastic, clear up until the virus hit. I was telling people I farmed for 48 years waiting for a year like this because it was the perfect storm. …When the country shut down and COVID protocols were set in place, the market and consumer demand shifted….” Grower Merrill Hanny of Hanny Farms in Shelley is also interviewed.

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Idaho Farm Bureau Federation: Revisions to farm relief program could help some potato growers

The recent revisions that USDA made to its coronavirus farm relief program are expected to provide some relief to potato farmers who have been financially impacted by COVID-19. Sean Ellis reports for the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. The federal CFAP program, which was announced April 17, will provide $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers impacted by COVID. The initial parameters of the program meant Idaho spud farmers, as well as most wheat and barley growers, would have received little if any of the funds.

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Idaho potato group cancels Sun Valley convention

The Idaho Grower Shipper Association has cancelled its 92nd annual convention due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris Koger reports for The Packer. The event was scheduled for Sept. 2-4 in Sun Valley, Idaho. It’s just the second time the annual potato convention has been cancelled; the 1945 convention was cancelled because of “war conditions,” according to an Aug. 3 statement from the Idaho Grower Shippers Association’s executive committee.

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Jersey potato season survives twin threats of weather and Covid

A leading exporter of Jersey Royals and one of the Island’s major growers have spoken of their pride in keeping the potato industry going through a difficult 2020 season. Adverse weather and the Covid-19 pandemic have both contributed to a challenging year for farmers in Jersey. Christine Hellio, from Manor Farm in St Ouen, said the Island had responded well after facing the initial crisis presented by Coronavirus in March.

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Oregon potato processor rebounds from COVID-19

A local potato processing plant that reported several COVID-19 cases to Oregon Health Authority is back in full operation, with all employees recovered and back on the job. Wong Potatoes reported five cases among employees of the business on April 20, one of the first locations in the state to have multiple cases. Owner Dan Chin temporarily closed the operation, which employs 40 people, to contain the spread of the virus. But now three months later, the plant is currently open and operating, despite a difficult water year.

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Australia’s potato peril: Industry highlights concern about EU fries dumping threat

The potato industry in Australia is now in a state of ‘high alert’ for any potential French fries dumping activity from the EU, highlighting its chief concerns as price plummeting and farmer welfare after a tough season. The alert was raised after the European Union (EU) recently passed an EUR650mn (US$741.1/A$1.1.mn) COVID-19 government assistance scheme that would enable EU firms to export their processed potatoes cheaply Down Under, where before it had never been a common avenue.

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Signs of some recovery in global restaurant fry demand

Major potato processor Lamb Weston and global quick service restaurant chain McDonald’s saw sales fall significantly in the three months to the end of June, but it could have been much worse. There are also some signs of a recovery in restaurant fry sales, although fears over coronavirus remain, according to Cedric Porter, editor of weekly market briefing World Potato Markets. Lamb Weston’s sales were 16% lower in the quarter than the same period last year, with demand from foodservice distributors and smaller restaurant the most affected.

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Sending surplus crops to food banks helping Washington farmers, hungry families

George Ahearn had heard about farmers in Eastern Washington who were giving away potatoes and onions and wanted to know if someone had a truck he could borrow to haul the discarded crops to Western Washington food banks. The response was immediate and dramatic. A convoy of four trucks, including two with trailers, made the trip east, helping provide quite a bounty for local food banks.

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Only in wonderful Canada: Spuds for charity

On a sweltering Friday morning in Brandon, a town in Canada’s Manitoba province, there were two kinds of fries in the Keystone Centre parking lot: the french fries being handed out, and the volunteers handing them out. With a surplus of potatoes caused by a drop in demand due to COVID-19, McCain Foods partnered with Enns Brothers to clear out their backlog and raise some funds for STARS and Ronald McDonald House, which are splitting the proceeds 50-50. [STARS: Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service Foundation]

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USAID-supported potato development program in Kenya moves ahead despite COVID-19 crisis

In the last three months (April – June), the potato value chain component of the USAID-supported Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) program has continued implementing field activities, albeit at a slow pace due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Critical field activities such as seed distribution, establishment of learning farms, field crop management, and training of host farmers and farmer group representatives at the learning farms are ongoing though.

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Idahoan Foods donates $37,000 in masks and potatoes

Idahoan Foods donated 10,000 masks to the Idaho Falls community on Thursday. Teaming up with the city of Idaho Falls, the packaged potato company set up a drive-by giveaway. Residents could pull up to the Idahoan Foods headquarters at Snake River Landing to receive free face masks for everyone in the car. The company also donated packages of its “Buttery Homestyle Mashed Potatoes” product that people could pick up along with their masks.

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McCain’s ‘French Fries Feed Farmers’ campaign encourages Canadians to eat more fries

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, McCain Foods stepped in to help potato growers by releasing a video encouraging Canadians to eat more french fries, titled ‘French Fries Feed Farmers’. Despite the Canadian government’s relief programs, McCain Foods stated in a release that “the private sector has an important role to play.” The company put several initiatives in place “to show its deep-rooted commitment” to its 130 potato growers across Canada. The campaign is a 38-second video designed for social media highlighting one main message: Eat more fries, Canadians!

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Potatoes NZ: ‘Cheap European frozen potato products are being dumped on New Zealand market’

Potatoes NZ says in a press release issued today that it has submitted an application to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE) for anti-dumping duties on frozen potato products originating in Belgium and the Netherlands. The application is based on the real threat of material injury to the New Zealand potato industry. The threat is said to be a result of huge surplus inventories of frozen potato products and processing potatoes in Belgium and the Netherlands, the organization says.

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NPC welcomes revised USDA coronavirus aid payment rates, presses for additional increase

The National Potato Council released a statement Thursday, July 9, after an announcement by USDA that it is issuing revised payment rates for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which previously prevented potato growers from receiving equitable access to relief funds. “The potato industry appreciates the rapid work of USDA in considering these changes and making potatoes eligible for all three categories of payments. We believe the economic justification submitted by the industry strongly supports the meaningful inclusion of potatoes in this relief program, given the devastation faced by the industry due to the government-mandated food service shutdown,” said Britt Raybould, NPC President.

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French Federation of Seed Potato Growers confirms efficient seed certification, despite COVID-19 and high incidence of aphids

In a press release issued by the French Federation of Seed Potato Growers (FN3PT), the organization says that the normal measures are in place to ensure efficient and high quality potato seed certification activities, despite the current COVID-19 situation, as well as an unusual incidence of of virus-transmitting aphids this season. FN3PT says field inspectors are fully mobilized to carry out the inspection work in accordance with the agreement between FN3PT and GNIS/SOC, the official authority for certification and phytosanitary matters for seed potatoes in France.

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US potato industry experts see mixed foreign trade outlook, increase of french fry imports from the EU

International trade experts within the potato industry are encouraged by a new trade agreement with China but have concerns about a rise in frozen fry imports from Europe. Matt Lantz, vice president for global access at Bryant Christie, summarized international trends and trade issues. The export market for U.S. potatoes continues to grow, and while the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a reduction of exports, there’s still promising news in the international markets for U.S. potato growers, he said. “There has been a major surge of fries from the EU, and I say the term ‘surge’ very deliberately,” Lantz said.

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NEPG: Slight rise in European potato acreage, uncertain outlook for markets

The North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) estimates that the area for consumption potatoes in North-Western Europe increased with 0,5% compared with last year towards 621.148 ha. Under current market conditions, this is considered as too large an acreage, however, the COVID-19 situation arrived at a time when growers already ordered their seed potatoes and rented potato land, and for many it was too late for an area reduction. According to the NEPG, there are many more questions than answers during the current growing season in most potato producing countries around the world.

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Potato planting in the UK holds up despite challenges for growers

New UK potato figures have revealed a mere 1% drop in planted area despite a turbulent season for growers. Provisional estimates from AHDB show the planted area in Great Britain at 119Kha, which, if correct, shows only a 1% drop on last year. The fall takes into account revisions to the 2019 planted area data since September. Covid-19 doesn’t appear to have had an effect on planting decisions as many growers had already made plans by the time the pandemic hit.

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Washington and Oregon potato acreage down, but plenty expected

Potato production in the Northwest was strong in 2019, and the outlook for 2020 looks similar, said Chris Voigt, executive director of the Moses Lake-based Washington State Potato Commission. “We had a good harvest of the 2019 crop, great quality, strong yields, and strong pricing for our growers and shippers,” he said. The ongoing pandemic of the new coronavirus COVID-19 remained perhaps the top concern across the industry, said Gary Roth, executive director of the Portland-based Oregon Potato Commission.

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Viewpoint: Without modern, industrial farming, pandemic would have claimed many more lives

In November of 2019 The Atlantic asked “experts” what they would change if they could go back in time. The experts had titles like “mythographer” – no scientists invited – so it’s no surprise only one response had real-world relevance, A historian at Rutgers wished agriculture had never been invented. Agriculture, that fundamental progressive achievement which made food plentiful so that we no longer spent our days foraging and could learn things and, you know, create universities, had to be undone. How out-of-touch with the world must you be when you wish to go back in time 10,000 years and re-implement periodic famine?

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Tomra Food publishes new e-book for potato fresh packers

TOMRA Food has published an eBook to help potato fresh packers tackle operational challenges intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The 19-page publication, downloadable free-of-charge from the company’s website, offers information and advice which will be helpful to potato packhouses not only now, while market conditions are distorted, but also long after the pandemic has passed, the company says in a press release issued today.

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Coronavirus continues to impede on demand across all sectors in Britain

Coronavirus continues to impede on demand across all sectors in the British potato industry, with mixed reviews on what the effect the reopening of pubs and restaurants will have, according to Alice Bailey, Senior Analyst at AHDB. Until food-service and catering returns to normal, free-buy supply will be limited in the processing sector. Unfortunately in the short to medium term these demand corridors are unlikely to return to normal, but will hopefully move in the right direction.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor/Publisher of Potato News Today


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